The Team Dynamics of Selfishness

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“And he scores for the opposing team!!!”


I was at middle school basketball tournament when I heard the announcer utter these horrid words. Even though neither of the teams were mine, I could feel the embarrassment of the guilty 7th-grade turncoat. 


Certain that their team was going to loose the game anyway, this gangly boy had been brought off the bench to get some court time.


From the way he had run onto the field, I’d felt instant empathy for him. Like me, he must have been one of those awkward middle schoolers without natural athleticism. Like me, he’d probably put on the uniform with the rest of the team, thinking that he wouldn’t actually get to play. 


Yet, here was his chance. All eyes had seen him sub in and all eyes watched as he ran with jerks and starts, arms flailing purposelessly. 


Despite his uncoordinated moves, somehow he found himself with ball in hand. 


My stomach knotted up and I found myself muttering a little prayer for the clumsy guy. In what probably proved to be his most regretted moment of the year, he lunged the ball toward the nearest basket. As the shot went in, he face paled with the realization that he had gifted the opposing team with two more points. 


Even as players on God’s “team”, there are too many times in life that we find ourselves scoring points for the opposite team. Most of the time, lobbing up a ball of jealousy, anger, or bitterness may seem the perfect “self-expression” at the time. Yet, when the points are tallied, we find that any action accomplished for the purpose of self preservation doesn’t achieve the satisfaction that we had hoped. Instead, it eventually leaves us disgusted and feeling worse.


Long before mankind entered the scene, each and every emotion and thought were pre-selected by two powerful team leaders. 


God the Father “chose” love, joy, peace and truthfulness for His team. The evil one chose selfishness, deceit and accusation, to name a few. 


By the time Adam and Eve entered history, every choice was already divvied up. Although the father of lies presented the “apple” as an option for self-expression and freedom, this alternative honestly put mankind scoring for satan’s team. It didn’t achieve the freedom that Adam had been promised. 


You see, there is actually no such thing as freedom of self-expression, because “self-anything” is still selfishness, plain and simple.


Choosing self means you have also chosen company with other undesirable attitudes. It’s a bundled deal. You choose one – the others are very nearby. You can never be ultimately kind, generous or unconditionally loving when satisfying self is your number one goal. 


If we want to truly know freedom in our thoughts and emotions, then allow Jesus’ words to sink deeply into our innermost being: “He who has found his life (literal: the seat of feelings, desires and affections) shall lose it, and he who has lost his life (literal: the seat of feelings, desires and affections) for My sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39)


True freedom is breaking loose from the control of selfishness and choosing instead to act upon the impulses of God’s Spirit. 


“Free me to walk in Your ways, O Lord.”